Create Your Brand Story

Happy couple jump together and make a heart symbol of light manifesting their love. Romantic sunset sky, Valentines Day.
This is a guest post by Robert Murray, author, speaker, executive, chairman, advisor, and associate professor. Robert’s latest book is Unlocked: Finding the Key to Practical Leadership.

Connecting At A Deeper Level

The first step to strategizing what kind of team you want to lead is deciding what kind of story you want for your organization.  What stories will your customers tell their friends and family?  What stories will your employees tell their friends and family?  Your business’s success and profitability depend on the stories that get told.  Take the time to develop a story that captivates and engages.

Here’s an example.  I have spoken many times around the world about a disastrous experience I had on Lufthansa Airlines over ten years ago. There is even a video of me available on the Internet telling the story. Personally, Lufthansa has lost over $350,000 in business that they could have potentially got from my international travels because of this experience.

Conversely, British Airways is one of my all-time favorite airlines because of the emotional connection I have with them. Why? What is the STORY that makes me go out of my way to do business with them?

 

“Your story must encompass your values.” –Robert Murray

 

Create a WOW Story

It was New Years 2010, my daughter, then 19 years old, flew back to Europe to see her school friends and celebrate New Years with them. She had a lot of fun – apparently too much fun because when she was returning home, she had to transfer to the last leg of her trip at Heathrow Airport. While she was waiting for her next flight, she fell asleep in a chair at the gate and missed repeated PA announcements calling her to board her flight.

7 Disciplines of A Leader

Positive reinforcement word Discipline engrained in a rock

How to Help Your People, Team, and Organization Achieve

In the Seven Disciplines of a Leader, Jeff Wolf explores what leadership looks like when done right. Jeff has coached hundreds of leaders and offers his disciplines in order to benefit leaders at all levels of the organization.  I recently talked with Jeff about the leadership disciplines discussed in his book.

 

“Companies place the wrong leadership in the job 82 percent of the time.” –Forbes

 

How to Get Noticed

What advice do you give to someone who wants to stand out and get noticed as a leader in a large organization?

Learn what your company looks for in its leaders. See if there’s a competency model that identifies successful leaders’ strengths and characteristics. Study this model and be sure to practice the competencies. If no such model exists, seek out successful company leaders and talk with them to gain a better understanding of how they became successful.

You should also volunteer to lead small projects, which will provide useful leadership experiences and exposure. You’ll gain confidence and enhance the skill sets that are weak.

Always be curious. Seek new opportunities and experiences, and always be open to trying something out of your normal comfort zone.

I would encourage budding and aspiring leaders to create a plan, put it in writing, and then “work it.” Research proves that people who put their goals in writing are usually more successful.

Read as many books and attend as many training courses as possible, both within and outside of the company. Vary courses so you can experience a broad spectrum of leadership skills.

 

“A leader’s upbeat attitude is contagious and lifts morale.” -Jeff Wolf

 

There’s another important challenge to overcome: Learn the areas in which you must improve because we all have blind spots. We see some of our weaknesses, but it’s truly impossible to identify all of them.

It’s important for leaders to be positive and have a great attitude because they can either impart or sap energy. A leader’s upbeat attitude becomes contagious, lifting the morale of those around them. You can always teach skills, but you cannot always teach people how to be positive; they either have a great attitude or they don’t.

Be sure you are striving to work well with others and be aware how other people view you. When you stand up to speak in front of a group, do you exude confidence, present articulate, clear messages, and carry yourself well?

 

Coaching for Success

What is the most common reason someone calls you for coaching?

Coaching used to be thought of as a tool to help correct underperformance or, as I often call it, the “broken wing theory.” Today, coaching is used to support leaders, employees with high potential, and top producers in an effort to enhance individual capabilities.

We work in such a high-speed environment! Organizations are finally beginning to recognize the importance of helping leaders achieve critical business objectives in the shortest possible time, so they’re hiring me to speed personnel development.

I’m often brought into organizations to deal with a number of leadership issues. Providing feedback is one key area. As leaders move into greater levels of responsibility, they receive less—perhaps even no—feedback from others on their performance. The unfortunate consequence is stagnation. Critical leadership and interpersonal skills often reach certain levels, and the leader is given no opportunity to become an even better leader. Working one-on-one with an objective third-party coach offers these leaders a trusted advisor who can focus on behavioral changes that organizations are ill equipped to handle. Coaching develops extraordinary leaders. Extraordinary leaders produce extraordinary business results.

 

Have a Quick Impact as a New Leader

If you are a new manager, what are a few ways to have a quick impact?

Leadership is not rocket science. It comes down to living and leading by the golden rule: Do unto others as you want them to do unto you.1119003954

People make companies. As leaders, we often spend most of our time on strategy and improving bottom-line results, but what about our people? It’s our job, as leaders, to guide them, help them develop more skills, and increase productivity.

I think Walt Disney put it perfectly: “You can dream, create and design the most wonderful place in the world….but it takes people to make the dream a reality.”

For a quick impact, work to understand what your people want, not just what you want, and act accordingly. Ask your staff for their feedback with questions such as:

  • What can I do to make you happier here?
  • What do you find challenging about your work?
  • What’s energizing about your work?
  • How can I be a better leader for you to be successful?
  • What resources do you need that you currently don’t have?
  • What motivates you to work hard?
  • Do you feel appreciated and receive the praise and recognition you feel you deserve?

Often times a new leader’s first inclination is to become too friendly with people. After all, everyone wants to be liked. But by trying to become everyone’s friend, leaders run the risk of losing respect and influence. If your staff considers you to be one of the group, they may not respect your judgment on important issues.

Additionally, they may lose their motivation to achieve goals, fail to work hard, and assume deadlines are soft when they believe their “friend” will never reprimand them. That’s why leaders must avoid falling into the trap of becoming too friendly with their staff. The bottom line? You’re the boss—not a best friend! You cannot be objective and unbiased when staff members view you as a work pal.

 

“It takes people to make the dream a reality.” –Walt Disney

 

A Guide to Hiring Right

Light A Fire Under Your Business

on a fire in a fire-place it is possible to look infinitely, enjoying his heat and crackle of firewoods, nothing creates a comfort, as conflagrant fire so

Light A Fire

Tom Pandola and Jim Bird’s new book Light a Fire Under Your Business is unlike most business books you will read. The authors not only share practical business principles, but they do it through a combination of business and fire-fighting experience. Whether fighting a fire in a building or one ranging outside, these two veteran firefighters share their experiences and apply the principles in a clever way that gets your attention. Firefighting requires teamwork, flawless execution and commitment.

 

“Execution is everything.” –Jeff Bridges

 

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Tom about the book and his advice to build a culture and a team.  Tom Pandola is a director of communications in the air medical transportation industry. He is also a cofounder of  Third Alarm, a leadership consulting company. Pandola’s work experience includes 25 years with the Los Angeles City Fire Department where, as a fire captain and battalion chief, he tested inspirational leadership principles while solving problems associated with responding to fires, floods, riots, and earthquakes.

 

Build a Culture of Execution

How do you develop a culture of execution?

When something is happening, or not happening and falling short of the organization’s expectations, in this case execution, I have three steps that I take to zero-in on the cause of the problem.

 

“The result of bad communication is a disconnection between strategy and execution.” –Chuck Marin

 

 

Step 1: What process is currently in place?

Step one: I look at the process that is already in place. Does it provide our workforce with all that they need to execute properly and in a timely manner? If not, I would look at either developing a new process or just adjusting the current one to be more supportive of those involved.

Step 2: Are individuals empowered?

Step two: If a lack of execution is not found to be a process issue, then I will look at the individuals involved. Do they feel as though they are empowered and authorized to take the appropriate actions? Sometimes there has been a lack of communications or a miscommunication that causes people to feel less than accountable. I would correct whatever the issue that is found to be causing the lack of execution. This would include the last resort, which is to discipline individuals if it turns out they have made a conscious decision not to follow the process or to not take actions that they are authorized to take.

Step 3: Are behaviors infused in the culture?

Step three: This step gets to the core question about developing a culture of execution. When leadership continuously engages in process improvement and personnel empowerment, they are working on the culture of the organization. I believe that it takes leaders coming together to define the things that they believe will improve execution – and then work at infusing the desired behaviors into the culture.

light-a-fire-under-your-business-book-cover-m7b62gu1p2uq9gcqsb85om6482g63dcjbsklilnoryAn example from the fire service is the need to provide every member of the department with the right process and feeling of empowerment to get the right things done, for the right reasons, and at the right time. This is necessary because the fire service is a 24/7/365 operation, and the top leaders cannot be present when most of the work of their department is taking place. So in order to give the “right things” meaning, the leadership developed meaningful mission, vision, and values statements that serve to drive decision making at all levels of the organization.

This is the first step I recommend every organization take. Bring the leadership together and write a meaningful mission statement that defines, in the simplest way, your organization’s core purpose. This will provide your workforce with the basis for their thoughts and actions. Then write a vision statement that illustrates a desired future. This provides each individual the knowledge of executing their duties in a way that contributes to that vision. And finally, each work team should develop a set of values that they feel help them execute their unique duties with a high level of success.

 

Create a High-Performance Team

12 Things NOT To Do As A New Leader

business meeting sad expression bad negative gesture young teamwork
This is a guest post by friend and mentor Bruce Rhoades, who retired after having run several companies. He often helps me with strategy. I am delighted that he is a regular contributor.

What NOT to do as a New Leader

Achieving a new leadership position is both rewarding and challenging. It is recognition that you are someone who can make a difference, lead others and get things done. On the other hand, it is perhaps another step toward more responsibility and more visibility.

 

“Continual blaming only disempowers the organization.” -Bruce Rhoades

 

Whether you are a new executive, department manager, product manager, or team leader; when you are new to the role, people will watch closely to understand your style and how to work with you. Here are just a few of the things people will be evaluating:

  • Are you decisive? How will you make decisions?
  • What do you tolerate?
  • Do you hold people accountable?
  • Are you approachable?
  • Will you listen? Can you be influenced?
  • Do you take action?
  • How do you react to bad news?
  • Do you focus on big picture or detail?
  • Can you be put off, pocket-vetoed?
  • How will you deal with both good and poor performance?
  • How do you think about customers; how do you treat them?
  • How will you gather information?
  • What are your values?

 

“Many people confuse lengthy discussions with being effective.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

In two previous posts for new leaders, I described several tips to quickly and effectively establish your style, culture and values:

            How to Get Good Information and Build Relationships

            How to Decide, Empower and Take Action

However, as you begin to take action and set the desired cultural tone for the organization, it is easy to allow some behaviors to undermine your effectiveness as a leader. Here are a few things NOT to do as a new leader:

 

1. Do not Lead or Manage “around” other Leaders:

When involved in the various skip-level and other informal meetings, be careful not to usurp the authority of other leaders who may be responsible. If necessary, instead of acting at the time, simply make note of the situation, ask a few questions, then work through the appropriate leader to do what is necessary later.

 

2. Do Not Kill the Messenger:

Using the techniques I outlined in the previous post to get good information will sometimes surface bad news. Be cautious not to “kill the messenger” of the news, but listen and take the appropriate action in the proper forum. Strong, emotional reaction to a messenger of bad news kills open communication.

 

3. Do Not Be Totally Problem-Focused:

It is easy as a new leader to focus on solving problems. Be sure to balance problem solving with actions to capitalize on new opportunities and future strategies. Looking forward to possibilities allows the organization to solve current problems with a better context.

 

4. Do Not Start Too Many Large Initiatives at Once:

It is great to make decisions and take action, but be cautious to balance long-term, larger initiatives with the short-term actions. You will be more effective with organizational focus on a few long-term initiatives that are completed rather than on too many initiatives that drag on forever.

 

5. Do Not Permit Hidden Agendas:

When people have ulterior motives that are for personal gain or to hide negative consequences for actions and proposals, it undermines clear communication and trust in the organization. Always prompt people to explain their motives if you suspect hidden agendas. Asking questions is a good way to get to the actual agenda.

 

“Upward delegation undermines accountability and empowerment.” –Bruce Rhoades

 

6. Do Not Tolerate Pocket Vetoes:

A pocket veto is when someone appears to agree but actually does nothing, hoping that the subject will be forgotten. A pocket veto in business is a sign of passive-aggressive behavior. It not only undermines the effectiveness of the organization, but it also undercuts your leadership. Always confront this behavior with follow-up and reprimands. Pocket veto behavior is not like baseball – you do not get three strikes. Taking direct action with someone with this behavior will quickly set the tone for everyone that pocket vetoes are not a good idea.

6 Leadership Lessons from a Banker, Pope and CEO

Group of cheerful business people in casual wear standing close to each other and showing their thumbs up
This is a guest post by Rowena Heal, writer at RocketMill. She spends a lot of time with her head in a book or watching too much Sci-Fi. For more information, please check out the Cryoserver blog.

Heading up a team is tough and, unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership doesn’t exist.

From menial tasks, like enforcing a tidy desk policy and coaching best practice for a tidy inbox, to motivating a team to double revenue year-on-year, it’s difficult picking appropriate techniques without falling into the trap of micro-management.

Thankfully, there’s a lot to be learnt from Mario Draghi, Pope Francis and Tim Cook; all of whom have appeared within the top four of Fortune’s World’s Greatest Leaders List.

Mario Draghi

As President of the European Central Bank, and second on Fortune Magazine’s list, Draghi has a tough job on his hands. Despite this, his abilities to motivate and remain calm are great examples of skills that should be emulated by managers in all fields.

1). Keep your team motivated:

We wouldn’t blame Mario for succumbing to the stress of maintaining financial unity across 18 countries, although he’s yet to do so.

Despite having one of the toughest and most significant jobs in the world, his pledge to do ‘whatever it takes’ to preserve the euro – as well as boasting the nickname Super Mario – highlights his motivational skills.

Managers should take heed of this approach, remembering staff morale often rests heavily on your own emotions; if you’re stressed, rest assure they will be too. If things are getting a little shaky within the business, keep the team motivated – chances are the positivity will help pull you all back out of a slump.

“The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.” -Lee Iacocca

 

2). Stay grounded:

Mario’s often praised for his down-to-earth approach to his job; something arguably unexpected when under so much pressure. Draghi’s less than lavish lifestyle outside the office – his family celebrated his son’s graduation in a pizzeria in Milan – keep him grounded in work, too.

We’re not suggesting you remove all luxuries from your life, just don’t spend hours bragging about big expenses to staff that cannot afford the same – it’ll only create barriers. Remaining down to earth is a great way to ensure team members can speak to you openly and avoids issues with secrecy or intimidation.

Pope Francis

Now a few months into his second year as leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis is responsible for economic reforms at the Vatican and has driven a spiralling discussion on divorce and homosexuality throughout the Church.

Author Jeffrey A. Krames believes there are at least 12 leadership lessons we can learn from Pope Francis, but we’ve picked two we deem important and applicable.

 

3). Listen to advice:

Unfortunately, a manager isn’t always right, so it’s important to accept that decision making isn’t a lone task.

Francis demonstrates enthusiasm for learning from the people around him, creating a Council of Cardinal Advisers comprised of eight members from across the world with ideologically varied views. This group advises him on all major actions and has been deemed the ‘most important decision-making force in the Vatican,’ by John L. Allen, author of The Francis Miracle: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church.

When heading a team, don’t be afraid to ask for advice from staff. Weigh up opinions and come to a conclusion based on this. Even if you still opt for your original decision, it’ll feel reassuring to know others are backing your verdict.

 

4). Lead with humility:

Asserting authority doesn’t have to go hand in hand with bossiness, and it’s important to remember how important your staff are – you wouldn’t be able to do your job without them.

Be more approachable by immersing yourself into the business – as well as the office. Francis is a clear advocate for leading with humility, and you can imitate this quality, starting with simple steps, like abandoning your office for a desk space next to your colleagues, or spending less on lavish business lunches.

Tim Cook